President Dr Mohamed Muizzu’s administration, already under scrutiny for its underrepresentation of women in key political positions, is under fire for its significant increase in political appointments and substantial fiscal expenditure. Despite advocating for women’s empowerment, the current administration’s appointments reveal a concerning gender gap at the top echelons of government.

According to available information, the administration has created 81 state minister positions and 122 deputy minister roles, in addition to 22 cabinet ministers and other ministerial-rank officials. The cumulative annual cost for these 246 appointees is MVR 128,832,000, potentially reaching MVR 644,160,000 over a five-year term.

However, gender representation in these appointments is notably skewed. The cabinet comprises merely three women among 22 ministers, a decline from the 33% representation in the previous administration. Notably, no women hold ministerial roles in the President’s Office, with Dr Aishath Ikram being the sole female at the State Minister level.

In response to the criticism, Under-Secretary Mohamed Firzul Abdulla Khaleel previously highlighted that women’s appointments in senior positions in state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are notably higher than in previous administrations, indicating progress in female leadership within the public enterprise sector. However, this stands in stark contrast to the less progressive composition of Muizzu’s cabinet and the absence of women in ministerial roles.

To address this disparity, President Muizzu has pledged to focus on appointing women to leadership roles in SOEs and aims for 20% female representation in parliament in the 2024 Parliamentary Elections. The First Lady has also echoed the need for more women in higher-level leadership positions, despite their increased presence in various occupations and civil service.

The administration’s policy to limit political posts to 700 contrasts with the 1,063 political appointees under President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and 808 under President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom. However, Government Spokesperson Mohamed Shaheeb confirmed that less than 50% of these positions have been filled to date, though he did not provide the exact number.

President Muizzu’s administration, while making strides in female participation in state companies, still exhibits a significant gender gap in political appointments. Combined with the substantial fiscal implications of these appointments and the lack of transparency, the administration faces critical challenges in adhering to its pledges of empowerment, fiscal prudence, and transparency.